Thursday, May 10, 2007

May is Coffee Cake Month

Last week, my friend Thrasso told me it was Coffee Cake Month. When I asked how he came by that nugget of information, he told me that it was, at least, Coffee Cake Month in his world. It is quite simply a ruse to get people to give him cake.

It isn't as though he only shared that information with me, he shared it wherever we went during his visit here; to bartenders, shopgirls, friends. He pretty much told everyone it was Coffee Cake Month. I think the woman behind the counter at Tartine nodded and gave him a wan "I knew that" sort of reply and bagged our non-coffee cake purchases. I wonder how many people took his announcement to heart?

I did, for one. God protects those too easily open to suggestion.

I Googled "Coffee Cake Month" and came up with little more than monthly cake offers. I did, however, manage to find Coffee Cake Day at The site is vaguely creepy with side bars and ads daring me to click on things like "The Fart Button. Press it. You know you want to." and "Mate 1 Intimate Dating." How these things are related to coffee cake, I am uncertain. Here is what I was told about Coffee Cake Day. The grammar is theirs, not mine.
Every year we celebrate Coffee Cake Day on 7th April, it is an important event to all people because cake is a fantastic food to us at any time we love to eat it, not only a testy food it's have a good food value. However indulge and pamper yourself with loads n loads of yummy and delicious treats, and share the taste of fun with all your friends, family and sweetheart also make the day more attractive with some beautiful coffee cake.
So that's what fun tastes like. How edifying.

I wonder if this is how holdays get started. Some random person comes up with an object to celebrate and tells two friends, then they tell two friends, and so on, like some Faberge Organic Shampoo commercial. Or, in Thrasso's case, this coffee cake business might be a Canadian thing, though I tend to think of them as eating daintier cakes with the tea they drink after stirring a bit of milk into their china cups with their 1981 Royal Wedding commemerative spoons. No angry comments from my Canadian readership, please. I know all of you have one of those spoons. All 33,098,932 of you.

Since my Canadian ami's birthday falls exactly one month after the "offical" Coffee Cake Day (perhaps that is why he wants a full month of celebration?), I have baked a coffee cake.

Since there are literally thousands of coffee cake recipes out there of varying types, I feel I can only assign the one a number. It's too early in its developmental stage to be given anything but. As you can see in the photo, the crumb is good, but it is not swirly enough. Mine is too subtle, and coffee cake should not, in my opinion, be too subtle. I think I'll make it a bit more crumbly next time. Please humor me. No recipe. It's not worth repeating. Yet.

Now, a little back story on the coffee cake, so one might better understand its need for a holiday. Or not.

Coffee cake can be traced back to the 17th Century in Europe, since that is when coffee was introduced there. In fact, it was made fashionable in Paris at Le Procope, a favorite haunt of my family when in town, for reasons I am certain you will understand. Sadly, we do not get a family discount, those bastards. And I do not believe they serve coffee cake, either.

Coffee cake can be traced to Northern Europe where, as (I love this website) writes:

Coffee cake (aslo sometimes known as Kuchen or Gugelhopf) was not invented. It evolved...from ancient honey cakes to simple French galettes to medieval fruitcakes to sweet yeast rolls to Danish, cakes made with coffee to mass-produced pre-packaged treats.

Food historians generally agree the concept of coffee cake [eating sweet cakes with coffee] most likely originated in Northern/Central Europe sometime in the 17th century. Why this place and time? These countries were already known for their traditional for sweet yeast breads. When coffee was introduced to Europe (see notes below) these cakes were a natural accompaniment. German, Dutch, and Scandinavian immigrants brought their coffee cake recipes with them to America.
The first coffee cake-type foods were more like bread than cake. They were simple concoctions of yeast, flour, eggs, sugar, nuts, dried fruit and sweet spices. Over time, coffee cake recipes changed. Sugared fruit, cheese, yogurt and other creamy fillings are often used in today's American coffee cake recipes.

"Much of the American appetite for sweet rolls and cakes comes from these specific Germans as well as from the Holland settlements that had so much influence on early New York, New Jersey, and Delaware. All of those colonial cooks made fruity, buttery breakfast or coffee cakes from recipes that vary only slightly from methods used in the twentieth century. They also share some of the responsibility for the national zest for doughnuts..."
---American Food: The Gastronomic Story, Evan Jones, 2nd edition [Vintage Books:New York] 1981 (p. 91)

"...Scandinavians were perhaps more responsible than anyone else for making Ameirca as coffee-break-conscious as it is, and for perfecting the kind of food that goes well with coffee. German women had already brough the Kaffeeklatcsh to their frontier communities, but it was in the kitchens where there was always a pot brewing on the back of the stove that Scandinavian hospitality and coffee became synonymous...The term coffee klatch became part of the language, and its original meaning--a moment that combined gossip with coffee drinking--was changed to define the American version of England's tea, a midmorning or midafternoon gathering at which to imbibe and ingest....Like the cooks from Central Europe, most Scandinavian cooks have prided themselves on simple forms of pastry making that include so called coffee breads, coffee cakes, coffee rings, sweet rolls, and buns..."
---ibid (p. 163)

Try making your own sometime. They are fairly simple to make and, like I said, literally thousands of recipes of varying degrees of palatability. Go on. Do it. And please join me at next year's Coffee Cake Film Festival which I will be hosting as soon as I can find enough films in which this underappreciated cake is featured.

And tell two friends.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well, thank you v. much. It's about time. I feel completely justified. With all that history to contend with it makes perfect sense to me that Coffee Cake requires a full month of contemplation. More importantly, how does it travel and when is it getting here? As usual, it took someone in America to take a perfectly right-thinking idea and get the ball rolling. (And I mean 'right' as in correct, not Republican, though I'll share cake with almost anyone.) And speaking of right-thinking, it fits that the Scandinavians had a hand in this. Like their furniture design, the simplicity and elegance of the Coffee Cake never goes out of vogue.